July 9, 2012

How to Find the Right Books for Your Readers


If you have a reluctant or struggling reader at your house, there are probably two things going on:
  1. He hasn't found a book he's interested in.
  2. He hasn't found an interesting book at his reading level.
Interest plus reading level. That's the equation that leads to engaged reading. And once your child is engaged, he or she will feel more confident, will learn new things, and the positive momentum just keeps going, gathering reading ability as it rolls.

I've never been a big fan of reading levels. It just sounds too much like grade level, and I'm all about keeping kids away from being labeled or categorized. But there is a lot to be said about finding the right match between readers and books.

If a text is too hard, no matter how interested you might be, you'll give up and not read it. It's like being drawn to the front cover of a book only to find it's written in a foreign language. Not much enjoyment there.

Some kids are great at the Goldilocks method of choosing books.  They start to read and, argh! too hard. Get another one, yuck, too easy. Get another one, ah, just right! But other kids give up too quickly. That's when mom or dad have to put on their reading teacher hats and find those "just right books" that will hopefully hook the reader before he knows it.

Here's How to Do It

I'm going to walk you through an easy way to find a bunch of books that combines your child's reading level with his interests.

Go to lexile.com. At the top of the page is a quick search. Enter the name of a book that your child can read with hardly any mistakes (99% accuracy). This will give you his lexile level (sorry I keep using a masculine pronoun. I know girls need this too).

The lexile of that book is a number followed by the letter L. A lexile is a measurement of text difficulty that is determined by sentence length and word frequency. Nothing about age-appropriateness. That's for you to determine.  

Let's say you entered the book Frindle. The lexile for Frindle is 830. Now look to the right sidebar. Follow the sequence you see in the picture below.

 
  1.  Set the sliding "Lexile Filter" to 100 points below and 50 lexiles above your book's lexile (in this case our book lexile is 830, and looks like I could have set the upper level even higher. Oh well.).
  2. Remove the name of your book so it all looks blank like I have in the picture.
  3. If your child is 6th grade age or above, check HL (High-Low). This means "high interest, lower level." These books are intended for older kids who don't want to be reading "baby" books. 
  4. Scroll down just a little and hit "update." That should give you a bunch of books to choose from. 
  5. Extra credit: Write down or memorize the original book's lexile, then hit "change" near the top.  Type in the lexile number in the "Lexile Measure" box and hit "submit." This will take you to a page of interests you can select. Then hit "submit" and see what happens.
You can read book descriptions there, and go to Amazon.com to "look inside," and check Goodreads.com for reviews. Surely you'll find something to entice your reluctant reader.

I think I'll do a few posts about book levels this month. There's just so much to say!

(top photo credit)

2 comments:

Traci said...

Good stuff. My Bella is a struggling reader. Emma reads about a book a day by contrast!

His-Follower said...

Don't forget your local public library (and specifically, your CHILDREN'S librarian!) Children's librarians have extensive knowledge about reluctant and struggling readers ... and can cut your chase down quickly! They are, by and large, the nicest people you can meet, and fly in the face of most 'library stereotypes!' I should know; I'm one of 'em!
~Cristy S.

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